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Having described these seducers, he exhorteth those to whom he wrote to beware of them, alleging the warning of the apostles, to show that not only Enoch, who might be supposed to speak of the wicked men of his own time, but the apostles, who expressly spake of the present age, foretold that scoffers and sons of Belial should arise in the church.
There is nothing difficult in this verse, only a doubt is to be discussed. Doth not this passage yield an argument against the authority of this epistle? He speaketh of ‘apostles,’ and of ‘words spoken before’ by them, ῥημάτων τῶν προειρημένων, as if he were of an inferior orb, and written long after their publication of the word. I answer—No. For (1.) Peter maketh mention of the epistles of Paul, yet it doth not weaken his authority, 2 Peter iii. 15, 16. (2.) In the place 321exactly parallel to this, 2 Peter iii. 2, 3, that apostle citeth other writings, yet avoweth his apostolical authority, ‘Be mindful of the words spoken before by the holy prophets, and the commandment of us, the apostles of Jesus Christ,’ (3.) This term, before spoken of, only showeth that he wrote late, when either the apostles were dead, or their writings were common in the church.
But why doth he quote the words of the apostles, neither urging his own authority, nor including himself, as Peter doth? I answer—(1.) Partly out of modesty, to point at the place whence he had taken these things, and to show that he was not ashamed to use and allege the writings of his fellow apostles. (2.) To declare their mutual consent: ‘In the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word be established.’ (3.) His own authority is employed in vouching theirs, and before expressed, when he calleth himself ‘the brother of James.’
Notes from this verse are these:—
Obs. 1. From that beloved; which compellation is used to note his affection in this writing: the like is used by Peter, 2 Peter iii. 1, ‘Beloved, I thought meet,’ &c. When we declaim against errors, we should do it out of love and a tender respect to the good of souls. In all contests we had need watch our own hearts. People suspect us to act out of peevishness and sinister affections, to serve a sect and party, and our engagement to be faction, not zeal; therefore, be the more careful that the flame be pure; incense must not be kindled with strange fire, nor zealous engagements arise from a carnal impulse.
Obs. 2. Again, we may be earnest against error when corrupt men are gotten into esteem; but it is in love to you, if we express ourselves with some warmth and affection; it is for God, and your souls are concerned. It is observable, John, the disciple of love, is most earnest against deceivers: ‘Bid them not God-speed,’ saith he, 2 John 7-10; and everywhere in his epistles, ‘My little children, believe not every spirit,’ &c.;’ there are many antichrist—men that lie and have not the truth.’ It is sad your ministers should be looked upon as enemies because they love you and warn you. But you will say it is out of perverseness, to serve their faction, and to cast an odium upon parties opposite to themselves. I answer—‘Charity thinketh no evil;’ we should not interpret the worst; those that storm at a warning give a shrewd presumption of their own guilt. Usually persons that object thus are such as would have us tamely suffer the honour and interest of our Lord and Master Jesus Christ to be trampled under foot; but it is our heart’s desire that tender consciences may know that it is not the shame of others, but their good, which we aim at.
Obs. 3. From that remember. Seasonable remembrance of truths is a great help and relief to the soul: John ii. 22, ‘When he was risen from the dead, the disciples remembered,’ &c. In events it is good to remember prophecies; they confirm the soul, and support it against the present distress and temptation; both sins and discomforts arise from forgetfulness mostly and want of actual remembrance: ‘Have ye forgotten?’ Heb. xii. 5. But now, when the Spirit is ready with the remedy, as the flesh is with the temptations, it is a mighty support. 322In the debates between the carnal and spiritual part, seasonable thoughts carry it. I do not say bare thoughts do it, unless God be iu them; there may be gracious disallowing thoughts, and yet the flesh go away with the victory for all that; but this is the way by which the Spirit of God worketh by fresh and seasonable thoughts; he poiseth the heart, and inclineth it to the better side. Well, then, let your memories be as an ark or chest, in which the tables are kept. Lay up a good stock of knowledge, that you may have truths always fresh and present with you: they will be a help to prayer, Eph. vi. 17, 18, ‘Take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying always,’ &c.; a check to temptations to sin, Ps. cxix. 9, ‘I have hid thy word in my heart, that I might not sin against thee;’ a support in afflictions, Heb. xii. 5; a remedy against error, John xiv. 26.
Obs. 4. The next clause is the words spoken before. The prophecies of scripture evince the truth of it; things are there spoken long before they fall out; not only before the event, but before the causes or remote tendencies to such an event. Wise men may guess when they see probabilities, and foretell that which dependeth on natural causes; the devil can many times shrewdly interpret the predictions of the word; but a certain prescience of what is future, and merely in itself contingent, is the prerogative of God: Isa. xli. 22, ‘Let them foretell things to come,’ &c. This is done in the scripture. Cyrus is mentioned by name a hundred years before he was born, Isa. xlv. 1; the birth of Josiah three hundred years before it came to pass, 1 Kings xiii. 2; the building of Jericho five hundred years before it was re-edified, Josh. vi. 26, with 1 Kings xvi. 34; the great promise of Christ in paradise, accomplished four thousands of years afterwards. The people of the Jews were ever warned by prophecy of the good or bad that befell them; scripture was to them not only an authentic register, but an infallible prognostication. These two signal prophecies, of the rejection of the Jews, and the calling of the Gentiles, were they not abundantly foretold, and accordingly came to pass? Can there be any compact here? When the Jews were the keepers of the oracles of God, would they foist in prophecies against themselves? Well, then, venture upon the truth of the word more than you have done; God hath ever hitherto stood to his word rather than he would go back from it; he would not only cast off his ancient people, but sent his own Son to suffer a shameful and an accursed death. He that hath been faithful hitherto, is he like to fail at last?
Obs. 5. I go on in the text,—of the apostles of our Lord Jesus. That the words of the apostles are the rule of faith. These were legati a latere, sent from the side of Christ; they had an extraordinary mission and call immediately from Christ, as Christ from the Father, John xvii. 18, and xx. 21. They had extraordinary gifts, as infallibility, quoad hoc, as to the work of an apostle, the power of working miracles, &c., and ordinary gifts in an extraordinary manner, as tongues, &c. They were to write scripture, and to consign a rule for the use of the church in all ages: ‘This word of the kingdom must be preached till the end come,’ Mat. xxiv. 14; and Christ prayed for no more than do ‘believe through their word,’ John xvii. 20; and to them he said, Mat. xxviii. 20, ‘I am with you to the end of the world.’ 323No other doctrine can we expect till we come to study divinity in the Lamb’s face.
It is not unlawful to make use of the writings of other men. Compare the 15th and 16th chapters of Isaiah with the 48th of Jeremiah, especially Isa. xvi. 8-11 with Jer. xlviii. 32-36, and you shall see how they agree almost word for word. The gifts and labours of others are for our use, not to feed laziness, but to exercise industry. In some cases, if we speak, iisdem poene literis et syllabis, as Melancthon wished divines would—in the same words—it is not a fault in controversies and positive truths; better make use of old words than coin new matter. Many now scoff at common truths, as if preachers did but talk like clocks, one after another. Doctrine cannot be varied: ‘A good scribe,’ indeed, must ‘bring forth out of his treasury things both new and old,’—represent things in a fresh, savoury way; yet it is not altogether unlawful to make use of the words of others, where they are poignant and emphatical, not lazily to go on in the track, but as improving their conceptions.
Obs. 7. Yet again, Jude, an apostle, quoteth apostles; Daniel, a prophet, read in the prophecies of Jeremiah, Dan. ix. 2; Peter was conversant in the epistles of Paul, 2 Peter iii. 16; Paul himself had a care of ‘the parchments,’ that is, as some suppose, the volumes and books of scripture, 2 Tim. iv. 13. Certainly the scripture is not only for novices and young beginners, but for the highest: a study becoming the most eminently gifted. There is a passage, Ps. cxix. 79, ‘Let those that fear thy name turn unto me, and those that have known thy testimonies.’ That turning to him, some understand of joining with him in friendship and familiarity, as certainly godly men, by a secret inclination, are moved to join one with another; others make the end of turning to him to behold in him a pattern and example of the Lord’s grace; but the Chaldee paraphrase thus: Turn to my doctrine; those that know, let them come to know more. Well, then, do not rest in the light you have, and think that you are above these helps; you may be further instructed and established; if you had all knowledge, there are affections to be wrought upon; you may be quickened if not learn. Ministers, and those that abound in knowledge, may be stirred up by the admonitions and exhortations of others.
How that they told you. He meaneth not in word, but in writings. They told the church in general, but the apostle applieth it to them. Places are everywhere, 1 Tim. iv. 1, 2 Tim. iii. 1, Acts xx. 29, 30. In the last time. The days when the gospel was first preached are so called in a double sense—(1.) Either with respect to the approaching judgments on the Jews: 1 John ii. 18, ‘Little children, now it is the last time.’ The lease of their mercies was running out apace; so James telleth the carnal Jews, James v. 3, ‘Ye have heaped up treasure for the last days.’ When God was pulling down and plucking up, they were scraping and hoarding up wealth, and so became a greater prey 324to the destroyer. Or (2.) Because then the last dispensation began, which God would continue without change unto the world’s end: Heb. i. 2, ‘He hath in these last days spoken to us by his Son.’ The Lord hath now fully revealed his mind, and the doctrine of salvation is put into a settled course, never more to be altered.
But why do the scriptures speak so much of scoffers in the last time? I answer:—(1.) Either by way of aggravation, that there should be scoffers then, when God had sealed doctrine by the coming of his Son, beyond which godly men did not desire a greater confirmation; (2.) Or διακριτικῶς, by way of distinction, more mockers in the last time rather than another, partly because the world was still continued, notwithstanding the threatenings of its destruction, 2 Peter iii. 4; partly because the holy people were then divided, Jews and Christians, and times of division prove times of atheism and scoffing; partly because carnal hopes of a temporal Messiah were disappointed, and by that means their assent was much weakened as to principles of faith.
Mockers. Some think it implieth seducers, who, by deluding, do, as it were, make a mock of men. But I suppose it is rather taken properly for such as in the Old Testament are termed ‘scorners,’ Prov. ix., or ‘scoffers.’ When men slight that of which themselves or others have had a high esteem, they usually do it by scorning and scoffing, thereby the more to deface all feelings of conscience. If you inquire what they mocked at, I answer—In general, it seemeth to be the Lordship of Christ; in particular, the glorious exercise of it at the day of judgment: ‘Where is the promise of his coming?’ 2 Peter iii. 4. And therefore is Enoch’s prophecy produced, which foretelleth the Lord’s ‘coming with ten thousands of his saints;’ and Hieron. in Isa. lib. xiv. cap. 51, telleth us of a discourse between Peter and Simon Magus, against whose school and sect our apostle is supposed to write, concerning the destruction of the world. If God be good, saith Simon, why will he destroy that which is good? if the world be bad, how is God good that made it? &c.
These scorners are said to walk after their own ungodly lusts. Walking implieth their settled course and daily custom of life; and their lusts are called ungodly lusts, partly to note the profane temper of their spirits, and partly to distinguish them from the motions and lustings of the new nature.
The notes are these:—
Obs. 1. What is told to the church in general, we must apprehend it as told to us. Paul telleth Timothy, and Peter telleth the distressed strangers, and Jude saith they told you. So Heb. xii. 5, ‘The exhortation speaketh to you,’ &c.; as if the Hebrews were the persons to whom the Proverbs were directly written. The scriptures speak to every age, every church, every person, no less than to those to whom they were first directed. Well, then, it showeth us how we should be affected in reading the word; we should read it as a letter written by the hand of God from heaven to us by name. If an angel should bring us a letter from heaven, certainly we would regard it. The Bible is a message sent from heaven to acquaint us with the mind of God; if we own the divine authority of it, why do we regard it no more?
Obs. 2. We should not be troubled at what is foretold; monsters 325expected are not wondered at; expectation, as it deflowereth any good. thing that we expect, so it fore-armeth the mind against evil: John xvi. 4, ‘These things I have told you, that when the time shall come ye may remember.’ I have told you. Why? What good will that do? Ans. We are the better prepared to entertain evils when we expect them before they come, and the evil to which the mind is accustomed seemeth the less. Again, we have an experience of God’s truth in the prediction, which will help us to believe and depend upon other promises. Finally, it assureth us that the Lord hath a hand and a counsel in all our troubles, for he told us of them before.
Obs. 3. That the scriptures speak much of the evil of the latter times; there is more knowledge, and yet more sin and error. Knowledge, where it is not sanctified, puffeth up and maketh men curious, and so they have an itch after novelties; or else it maketh men wicked, exasperating our evil affections, and so, none so bad as they that sin against light; hence much of the error and profaneness in the latter clays. Again, the latter days are as the bottom and sink that receive the dregs of foregoing ages, and as the world groweth old it is much given to dreams and dotage.163163 ‘Mundus senescens patitur phantasias.’—Gerson. Once more, much division there will be, and ‘beating their fellow-servants,’ Mat. xxiv. 49. Much libertinism; instead of casting off ceremonies, they will cast off ordinances, and desire to be freed not only from the Pope’s laws, but the very law of Christ.
Obs. 4. Among other sins that are found in the latter times, there will be many scoffers, partly because in times of controversy men will lose all awe—when truths are made questionable assent is weakened; partly because in times of liberty men will give vent to their thoughts; partly because the scandals of professing Christians will make many turn atheists; partly because fabulous conceits concerning the coming and temporal kingdom of Christ will make men question the whole doctrine of his coming. Well, then, wonder not if you find many scoffing at the authority of the scriptures, Godhead of Christ, day of judgment, the ordinances, fasting and prayer. The latter age will yield such kind of men; and it is one of the arts of Satan, by his instruments, to make things of the saddest and most serious concernment to seem ridiculous, that when once the awe of these blessed truths is weakened, men may be more easily induced to cast off both the concernment and profession of them.
Obs. 5. Mockers and scoffers are usually the worst of sinners. In, the first psalm there are three degrees of sinners mentioned, and the highest rank are those ‘that sit in, the seat of scorners,’ Ps. i. 1. The Septuagint render there λοιμῶν, ‘the chair of pestilences.’ These are the pests of mankind. Scorning cometh from custom in sinning, and maketh way for freedom in sinning. When conscience is seared, and men have lost not only restraints of grace, but natural modesty, then they fall a-scoffing; and when once they are turned scoffers, nothing will reclaim them. Reproofs enrage them. ‘Rebuke a scorner, and he will hate thee,’ Prov. ix. 8; yea, none do the devil so much service in preventing others as they. If your feet have been taken in this snare of death, extricate yourselves betimes. Beg earnestly for the more grace; there is some hope; God inviteth scorners, Prov. i. 22.326
Obs. 6. Again observe, those that cast off the awe of the Lord’s coming will certainly give up themselves to brutish lusts. Those mockers that said, ‘Where is the promise of his coming?’ are said here to ‘walk after their own lusts.’ Negantes enim poenam, negant et disciplinam, saith Tertullian (De Resurrect., cap. 11)—denying the resurrection of the flesh, they must needs be fleshly; for therefore they denied the day of his coming, to avoid the fear of his judgment.
Obs. 7. It argueth a state of wickedness to walk after our own lusts; that is, when sin and lust is our constant practice. A godly person may too often do according to his lusts, but he does not walk therein, it is not his constant road and path: Ps. lxviii. 21, ‘He will wound the head of his enemies, and the hairy scalp of such a one as goeth on still in his trespasses.’ Such as go on still are there accounted enemies to God. But what is to walk in sin? Ans. To make lust our principle, our course, our end. Our principle: Whatever a wicked man goeth about, he doth it out of some carnal impulse. His good duties are either to hide a lust or feed a lust. If he abstain from one sin, it is to feed another. Again, when it is our way and course: carnal men follow earthly things with greater earnestness and delight, but heavenly things in a slight and overly manner. The world and the flesh is their ἔργον, their business, all their care and comfort is it; and this is their end, to please themselves and to satisfy their lusts. Well, then, ‘walk in the Spirit, that you may not fulfil the lusts of the flesh.’ See ver. 16.
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